Building Web Applications Using Google API{7}


by Emily L
Unless you live under a rock, I will guarantee that you have come across at least one web site that utilizes one of the many Google APIs. Today, it is being used almost everywhere! To fully understand Google APIs, let me first explain what an API actually is. API stands for “Application Programmable Interface” and is a set of programming instructions that access web based software or tools (Dave). In this case, the Google API allow web developers to query Google’s servers, using its data for their own web applications. Google alone has dozens of APIs open to web developers and designers. Some of these APIs include: Maps API, Analytics API, Places API, Calendar APIs, YouTube APIs, etc. (Chapman, 2011). Let’s explore some of the more popular Google APIs.

Google Maps API:

The Google Maps API allows Web Developers to integrate Google Maps directly into their Web Application. With this, it is up to the developer to apply the tools in a manner that would make sense to the front-end user (Synodinos, 2007). So where did the Google Maps API originate? In 2005, the Google Maps Application was officially announced. The Google’s application became so popular that developers began hacking into the JavaScript interface to develop their own web applications. Books like Google Hacks and Mapping Hacks from the highly ranked O’Reilly Series even provided users with directions on how to hack into Google’s JavaScript. With the demand so high, Google finally released their Maps API to the public after only six months from their application release (Kin, 2011). Today, the API is constantly improving and adding new features.

James D Teresco, a Computer Science professor at Mount Holyoke College gave out an assignment to his students in which they had to implement Dijksta’s algorithm, an algorithm that measures the distances between various points. To make the project seem more relatable, Teresco required that his students implement the algorithm using the Google Maps API. The API proved to be a useful tool. Not only is it free, but also students were able to query information from Google Maps in order to find the shortest routing distances between real locations (Toresco, 2010).

Below is a current example on how developers are using the Google Maps API. The snapshot is of a current web site (www.sflivebus.com). This web application displays information of the San Francisco transportation system. The red images represent inbound transportation and the blue images represent outbound transportation. If you visit the actual site, you will notice that these red and blue images actually move in approximate real time! This, as you can imagine, can be extremely useful to San Francisco locals.

An Example of Application using Google Maps API

Retrieved from http://www. sflivebus.com

Google YouTube API:

Google’s YouTube API allows web developers to integrate YouTube’s video content into their applications.  Inside the YouTube API are four major APIs available for the public, which include: The Data API, The Player API, The Developer Dashboard API, and The YouTube Direct API.

  • The Data API, as the name suggests, makes it possible developers to integrate YouTube’s data into their site. In essence the API allows users to perform most normal operations parallel to the official YouTube, as it allows users to search for videos, see related video content, and access user accounts (“What are the, “ 2012)
  • The Player API allows the developer to embed any certain video into their web applications. With the API, there are two supported players, the “embedded player” (uses <iframe> tag) and the “chromeless player” (uses <object> tag). The embedded player acts more-or-less like a normal YouTube player by allowing the user to play, pause, control volume, and manage the video’s progress bar. The chromeless player, on the other hand, strips the embedded player of all of its interface controls. It is just simply a video player in its simplest form (“Players and player,” 2013).
  • The Developer Dashboard API is different than the other API’s in that it requires a developer’s key to function. Don’t worry, it’s free! This API is able to retrieve information regarding the number of video uploads, playbacks, and errors a web application may be generating (“What are the, “ 2012).
  • The YouTube Direct API allows developers to retrieve video content from front-end users, monitor their submissions, and display them on their own sites. There are two main elements to this API. The first is the “embeddable uploader”, which allows developers accept videos from site visitors. The second element is the “moderation console”, which allows the site host to review, manage, and create video assignments from visitor submissions. However, in order to use this feature, the Google App Engine, Google’s hosting infrastructure must be downloaded (“YouTube direct,” 2012).

Below is an example of site (animoto.com) that utilizes the YouTube API. Animoto collages together clients’ photos, videos, and music together to form rich, new video content. This can then imported to YouTube utilizing the YouTube API once the video is finished being made.

Example Application using Google YouTube API

Retrieved from http://www.animoto.com

Google Analytics API:

The Google Analytics API allows developers to extend customization capabilities on the Analytics Service. To extend, developers can customize how data is retrieved, displayed, and used (Lewis, 2012). According to Google’s Chief Business Officer, Nikesh Arora, he noted, “Over 10 million marketers and websites globally use Google Analytics to measure the effectiveness of their online presence in real time”  (McGee, 2012). The Analytics API is categorized in four major components: collection, configuration, processing, and reporting. To summarize, the collection component collects user data and the configuration component allows the management and customization of how data is perceived. The processing component then processes the user interaction data with the configuration data. And on the front-end, the reporting component deals with the user interface and provides access to the processed information explained before (“Platform components,” 2012).

The four categories can be better explained with the map below.

Map Demonstrating 4 Google Analytic ComponenentsRetrieved from https://developers.google.com/analytics/devguides/platform/

The Google Analytics API, however, provides three APIs available by the public. These include: The Collection API, The Management API, and The Data Export API.

  • The Collection API collects allows customization to how and which data is being collected. For example, with this API, it can be set up so that data is collected from purchased items made on a site.
  • The Management API allows developers to access Google Analytics accounts and profiles data. For example, this API makes it possible to retrieve goal-calculated data associated with a specific profile.
  • The Data API helps create applications by utilizing the data already stored in a Google Analytics account. For example, applications can retrieve customized reports from a selected profile. This is mostly used in conjunction to the Management API.

Below is an example of how the Google Analytics API is being used. This particular application is of a company called User Report and extends on Google Analytics features. With the use of customizable surveys, User Report is able to display more specific information about a business’s clients. Are they male or female? Are they young or old? Why didn’t they purchase your product?

Example Application Using Google Analytics API

Retrieved from https://www.userreport.com

There are many more:

I’ve just covered three of the most popular Google APIs. As you can imagine, there are dozens more to explore, each providing dozens of unique capabilities, waiting for developers to stick their hands into. Because the Google API is so widely adopted around the world, there are hardly any downsides to using the Google API versus other competing APIs. After analyzing dozens of “Top API Charts,” i’ve come to realize that Google APIs are always on top. Obviously, the APIs play a huge part in the web development world. If you want to learn more about the different Google APIs, check out Google’s API explorer here (https://developers.google.com/apis-explorer/#p/). If you want to take a swing at implementing the APIs check out W3schools.com, specifically,(http://www.w3schools.com/googleAPI/google_maps_basic.asp). This particular site lets you play around with the Google API right in your browser! We all knew Google to be the king of search engines, but who knew that they would be the king of web development APIs too.

 

Resources:

Chapman, C. (2011, July 22). 40 useful apis for web designers and developers. Retrieved from  http://www.webdesignerdepot.com/2011/07/40-useful-apis-for-web- designers-and-developers/

Dave, R. (n.d.). How to leverage an api for conferencing . Retrieved from http://money.howstuffworks.com/business-communications/how-to-leverage-an- api-for-

Kin, L. (2011, January 20). History of apis – google maps api. Retrieved from http://apievangelist.com/2011/01/30/history-of-apis-google-maps-api/

Lewis, A. (2012, December 06). Why i love using the google analytics api. Retrieved from http://econsultancy.com/us/blog/11269-why-i-love-using-the-google- analytics-api

McGee, M. (2012, April 13). Google analytics is installed on more than 10 million websites. Retrieved from http://marketingland.com/google-analytics-is-installed- on-more-than-10-million-websites-9935

Platform components. (2012, November 09). Retrieved from https://developers.google.com/analytics/devguides/platform/

Player and player api. (2013, January 09). Retrieved from https://developers.google.com/youtube/getting_started

Synodinos, D. G. (2007). Web maps with the google map api. Informally published manuscript, , Available from ABI/INFORM Complete . (1044789X)Retrieved from http://www.drdobbs.com/web-development/web-maps-with-the-google- map-api/202802965

The google analytics apis. (2013, March 08). Retrieved from https://support.google.com/analytics/answer/1008004?hl=en

Toresco, J. D. (n.d.). A dijksta’s algorithm shortest path assignment using the google maps api. (2010). 25(6), 253-255.

Youtube direct. (2012, April 09). Retrieved from https://developers.google.com/youtube/ytdirect

What are the youtube apis and tools?. (2012, December 19). Retrieved from https://developers.google.com/youtube/